Pilot Journal
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Speed Is Life

The Mooney Acclaim asserts a new record!

Flying is a compromise. You can have cheap, and you can have fun, but you won’t necessarily travel fast. You can have fast, for sure, but it will not be cheap, and fun depends on your definition of the word. Several new single-engine airplanes are as fast as turboprops, but the question remains: Can an everyday Joe use that speed, say, on a typical business trip, and have fun in the process." />

Small business aviation has been dominated in recent decades by turboprops and turbocharged piston twins, both of which are expensive to own and operate. Until recently, most light GA airplanes haven’t been able to compete in terms of speed, comfort, range and reliability. Cirrus has changed the face of single-engine aviation with variants of the SR22, Columbia rocketed to the front with the turbocharged 400 and last year, Mooney certified the turbonormalized Acclaim, taking the speed crown. Turbocharging allows light airplanes to post significant cruise numbers in the thin air of the teens and twenties.

General aviation offers the flexibility to land or take off from small airports that are more convenient than widespread locations. Speed is synonymous with time—the faster you fly, the more time you’ll have on the other end. Is a GA airplane an alternative to the airlines in the 21st century? Can one of these new speed demons, specifically Mooney’s Acclaim, make the grade for the average businessperson/pilot on a mission?

Plane & Pilot, our sister magazine, was fortunate enough to be the first aviation magazine to cover Mooney’s new Acclaim, and as a result, I was offered a brand-new Acclaim to answer my questions. For any pilot, it would have been the ultimate dream: Mooney gave me the keys and said, “have fun.” I decided that I would test my theory and, with faith in the speed of the Acclaim, I declared my intentions to set a speed record from coast to coast. I chose two cities that made sense from a business standpoint. San Diego, Calif., on the West Coast, and Charlotte, N.C., on the East Coast. Having put my foot firmly in my mouth, I had to make it happen.

As things worked out, Mooney could only get me an airplane for the week ending on April 6, 2007. No strong easterly flowing jet streams made it down south in April, but then again there wasn’t any icing either. I established a perfect setup for a long business trip from one moderate-sized city to another. Because of scheduling, I had to make the speed run on April 6—make the meeting or airline it.

An airline trip from San Diego to Charlotte can easily take more than 10 hours, if everything runs smoothly and your shoes aren’t a problem with TSA. You have to be at the airport an hour prior and it takes an hour to get there, an hour flight to LAX, along with another hour layover, which makes it four hours before you get out of California. If you get a direct flight to Charlotte with very favorable winds, it might take 3.5 hours of flying time along with an hour to get off the plane, get your bags and get to the rental car. Oh, and add another hour to get to your destination. No delays on an airliner and a flight schedule that accommodates your time requirement? Lucky you.


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